‘Act without expectation.’ ~Lao Tzu
Do you find it hard to let go of expectations in life?
Do you find you get emotionally triggered when the smallest thing that seems so simple goes wrong?
For many people this is very common. We build these expectations in our mind of what other people should do, or how our lives should be.
However when our expectations do not become our reality, we can feel disappointed, angry, resentful and unhappy.
The most minor thing can have the biggest negative impact on our day.
So how can we let go of these expectations that cause us great disappointment and frustration?
In this article I’ll share the easiest way to let go of expectations that impact the quality of your daily life.
The problem with having expectations in life
Everyday our lives are full of expectations.
It’s common to have an anticipation what a situation will be like or what another person will do. In our mind we attach certain feelings and emotions towards the outcome.
The situation could be big or small, but if our hopes are not met the emotional consequences can be overpowering.
For example have you ever found yourself in any of these situations?
- Paid big money for a holiday hotel room and found you are facing the car park.
- Had dinner at a fancy restaurant and the service was terrible.
- Ordered a takeaway coffee, waited 25 minutes and then it was crap.
Do you remember your emotional reaction?
No doubt there was frustration, disappointment and maybe a sense of resentment or anger.
I had an expectation around writing this blog.
I found myself going round in circles making minimal progress. The outcome was frustration until I decided to let go, walk away and come back when ready with fresh eyes.
When we create expectations, we convince ourselves of the importance of certain things happening in certain ways.
Yet the reality of any situation in life can never be guaranteed to meet our needs.
So what can we do to overcome the problem?
Why we need to learn to let go
If we want to get to a place where external circumstances do not impact our emotional balance we need to learn how to let go of attaching to expectations.
I know from my own experiences in life that letting go has been challenging at times.
For example in my younger years I was obsessed with watching sports and expecting my team to win. I found myself becoming more and more emotionally invested in outcomes I had no control over.
It was exhausting until I came to a realisation. Whatever the outcome it would have no impact on my life. Win or lose life goes on.
Now in my late fifties I’ve deepened my learning of ways to let go of many things I thought I needed to control.
It can feel liberating loosening the grip on things you are trying to control or manipulate.
So how can we let go of expectation in life?
A life without expectations
What’s a life without expectations like?
The key is in learning the difference between what is within your control and what is not. It’s an acceptance of the reality as it is. Not allowing ourselves to force people into the containers you have for them.
It’s a life where you don’t need to be disappointed or frustrated or angry — or if you are, you accept it, and then let it go.
Live with an attitude of no expectations and you will experience more freedom than you can imagine. The fewer expectations we have in life the less of a burden these requirements become.
Expectations can never allow us to live freely. Think of those daily rituals you engage in every day without thinking about it.
- Daily catching the same time train or bus to work.
- Watching Netflix
- Browsing social media on the internet
What would happen if they suddenly weren’t there?
Would you be able to emotionally let go?
The consequences of resisting and not letting go
The process of letting go of expectations requires a hard look inside.
You can never be in complete control of what happens to you. You can only control how you choose to respond to each situation.
Many of us attach ourselves to outcomes. We push for things to happen the way we want them to be. We attempt to control everything happening around us.
The reality is that things go much more smoothly when we allow them to naturally unfold rather than trying to force the outcome we desire.
Most of us resist letting go of things we feel we need or expect. Ironically this holding on can cause mayhem in our lives. We find it hard to move on.
Entangled in our attachment to expectations is an illusion of control. We attempt to influence people and circumstances to get them the way we want.
There’s this belief that if we get all the material things and circumstances just right, then we’ll be happy.
I know this has been the case for me. I often go for an early move swim at my local beach.
When I have finished I like to seal the deal on a perfect morning by getting a coffee at the nearby shop.
Sometimes things do not always go to plan. There may be a big line waiting therefore I have to let the coffee go.
Missing out on that final part of the puzzle can have a negative effect on my mood. I’ve learnt through necessity to not attach and move on.
The problem with this way of thinking is that everything is impermanent. Nothing ever stays the same. We get attached to certain things we like, and expect them to remain that way always.
This will always lead to disappointment.
Consider a routine you do daily where there is an expectation how things should play out:
- You go to your spin class with an expectation of a certain bike but someone else got there first.
- You go for a swim or run and then have an expectation of buying a juice at a certain shop but they are closed.
- You expect to be able to park your car outside your house but someone else has parked there.
How do you feel not being in control of your expectation?
The next time you notice yourself attaching to an expectation, pause and check out how that feels inside.
Now you know the benefits of letting go, how do we actually do it?
Awareness is the key
When you resist things you’re actually empowering them.
You are giving them tremendous influence and power over your conscious experience. But when you open tho the flow of life in both its good and bad what happens?
I know from my own experience that when I am accepting of what is, things drop away.
I can either get caught up in the pain that comes to me, attach to it, and become frustrated, or I can simply acknowledge my feelings and just let go.
It doesn’t mean we have to approve or like what happens. It’s just acceptance and understanding.
The simple willingness to acknowledge things for what they are liberates us from being caught up in the power of attachment. We no longer struggle with the emotions and thoughts that we are experiencing.
Next time you find yourself excessively waiting for a coffee or food in a restaurant notice how difficult you are trying to resist things.
What is the result of resisting?
I know for me when I try to push away what I don’t like in my mind, I become obsessed by the negative narrative criticising my experience.
- “Why am I waiting so long? It’s just a simple coffee”.
- “Where’s the waitress? I’ve been sitting here for ever”.
- “Why is this line not moving? They need more staff”.
It is the resting in awareness that brings about the liberation from clinging.
By Shinning the spotlight on our condition the problem starts to disappear. The sense of me and the resentment of the situation ceases if we trust in the awareness.
Just being aware of your mood due to circumstances is enough.
So to increase your awareness in any given situation where you may have an expectancy ask yourself the following 3 questions the next time you find your needs are not being met.
- When you go into a new situation, ask yourself what you expect to happen?
- Ask yourself if your expectations should be this way. Where did these expectations come from and are they realistic?
- When you feel disappointed, try to think about whether it was realistic to expect what you were hoping for?
I’ve learned to let go, and so can you.
Letting expectations go isn’t easy, nevertheless you can make your whole world better and more positive just by loosening your grip.
Letting go can be the key to finding happiness. Try it out sometime—it’s worth it.
Do you find it hard to let go of expectations in your life?
How do you deal with situations when you really need to let go?
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